Buying a House in 2020: What to Know

shutterstock_790873081

If you’re hoping to secure a new address in 2020, you’ve picked an excellent time to enter, or re-enter, the real estate market. Interest rates are still near record lows, and in many areas across the country, buyers are in the driver’s seat with plenty of available inventory.

However, even with an excellent climate for buyers, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to jump into the housing market in the coming year without at least some preparation, specifically around securing the best possible mortgage.

Consider this your checklist for making homeownership a reality in 2020:

  • Review your income and spending.
  • Sock away that down payment.
  • Tune up your credit score.
  • Gather your paperwork.
  • Choose a broker.

Review Your Income and Spending

Before you can buy a home, you must have a thorough understanding of your current income, assets and expenditures across all categories. This will be integral to establishing your new home budget, and it will also help you obtain a great mortgage rate.

Review your investments, banking and credit card statements thoroughly for accuracy and start to ferret out any unnecessary expenses. While you’re at it, evaluate your income to see if it can be increased over the near term. Is it time to ask the boss for a raise? You could also consider looking for a higher-paying job, but keep in mind that changing industries or moving from a salary-based position to a commission-heavy role might raise a red flag for lenders.

Lastly, take some time to review your current housing spending, including rent or mortgage, insurance, monthly homeowners association fees, taxes and maintenance. Are you comfortable with the amount? If not, how much more or less would you ideally like to spend each month?

Sock Away That Down Payment

Many experts agree that homebuyers should aim to have a 20% down payment ready when looking for a new house. While there are many mortgage options that allow for a lower down payment, they typically require private mortgage insurance or a similar regular payment. PMI helps protect lenders if you default on your mortgage, and the lower your down payment and credit score, the more you’ll have to pay for PMI, taking a bigger chunk out of your monthly housing budget.

Many HOAs, cooperatives and condominiums require a 20% minimum down payment. Also, a down payment of that size will save money over the life of your mortgage. For example, paying 20% down on a $300,000 home with a 30-year mortgage could save you more than $54,000 over the life of the loan, compared to a 5% down payment.

Tune up Your Credit Score

Income, down payment and credit score are the three driving factors behind what your home loan will actually cost you. Because it can take several monthly reporting cycles to address credit report issues, you can never start boosting your score too soon. The first step is to request copies of your full credit report from all three reporting agencies. While credit score websites like Credit Karma can be great for tracking your score, start with reports directly from each bureau – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – to ensure you’re reviewing the most recent information straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

Check each statement thoroughly for errors and mistakes and remedy any mistakes using the exact instructions found on the report. Next, pay down revolving balances as much as possible while still meeting your down payment savings goals. Pro tip: Improving your utilization ratio – the percentage you owe divided by the total credit line – will typically drive up your credit score more than paying off any single card. Aim for a 30% or lower utilization ratio for all credit cards.

To keep your credit score at its highest, you’ll also want to avoid any major credit purchases or opening any new lines of credit. It couldn’t hurt to engage a credit monitoring service to prevent any fraud during the critical mortgage application process as well.

Gather Your Paperwork

This is the perfect time to organize all the paperwork necessary to buy a home. A typical mortgage application will require the following:

  • Federal and state tax returns for the last two years plus associated W-2 or 1099 forms.
  • Complete statements for all bank accounts for the last two months.
  • Two months of statements for investment accounts plus quarterly reports from your 401(k).
  • A detailed monthly debt schedule, including all loans and credit accounts, issuer, balance due and minimum monthly payment.
  • Income statement or letter of employment.
  • Additional records required may include proof of rent payments, recent divorce decrees, past bankruptcy or foreclosure information, gift letters if anyone is gifting a portion of your down payment and so on.

If you’re self-employed, you’ll need to prepare profit-and-loss statements and balance sheets to verify your income. Additionally, if you’ll be purchasing shares in a co-op building, you’ll likely be asked to submit a comprehensive application as well as personal references.

Choose a Broker

While anyone can pull up online listings and visit open houses, a wise real estate agent specializing in your local area is indispensable when it comes to saving time, energy and money. From housing starts to mortgage rates and sales trends, there’s a sea of data available on the real estate economy. Trying to make heads or tails of it all and what it means to your specific goals is a challenge, especially when much of it is written for a national audience or a specific editorial agenda.

The “boots on the ground” understanding that an agent provides for your homebuying objectives is invaluable. He or she will guide you through the ins and outs of your local inventory and market trends, and will act as your advisor and champion through the offer and closing process. A skilled Realtor or agent will also have a time-tested network of professionals – from attorneys and lenders to contractors and landscapers – who can help close the deal smoothly and turn your new house into your dream home.

How can you make sure you’re selecting the best real estate agent for your needs? Face-to-face interviews are a crucial part of the process. Ask your potential agent about his or her experience in the area, communication style and availability. Don’t forget to inquire about fees that you may be asked to cover, as well as any recent success stories and references the agent can provide.

With just a few weeks left in this year, and this decade, now is the time to start preparing if buying a home is on your 2020 to-do list.

 —
Originally published here.
Posted in Home Sales, Misc, South Orange County | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Buying a House in 2020: What to Know

Tips for Maintaining Your Privacy While Selling Your Home

Home Safety | SCHOMES

Selling a home is hard. From picking a real estate agent to decluttering to letting strangers in, the process transforms a memory-filled residence into a stripped-down shelter for someone else to personalize. For all the activities associated with it, parting with a home may be just as big of a commitment as buying one. But unlike purchasing, selling involves a level of publicity that might curb privacy and safety.

While not every for-sale sign or online listing attracts nefarious attention, the protection of a home, the belongings inside and the owner’s identity should underpin the time a property spends on the market.

When security is a priority, here’s what to consider about some of the most integral aspects of the home selling experience:

  • Home preparation.
  • Home depersonalization.
  • Open houses.
  • Online listings.
  • Relationship with the selling agent.

Home Preparation

Decluttering is among the first steps homeowners take when selling. Owners clean, remove excess items and stage in order to present a blank-slate home for buyers to customize. But preparing a home for sale is much more than making the space appeal to strangers.

“It’s important for people to remember that when you’re in the mode of selling a home, it’s very different than when you’re living in a home,” says Andrew Rhoda, a real estate agent with Compass in Los Angeles. “Sometimes people treat that very casually, but the reality is that you do have to invite strangers into your home. And when you invite strangers into your home, you open yourself up to the risk of your home being burglarized or even someone hurting themselves on the property.”

When it comes to physically protecting a home, installing motion-activated alarm systems, repairing faulty windows and doors and placing lock boxes are common procedures.

In condominium buildings in major cities, trustworthy doormen may negate the need for lock boxes. Meanwhile, in the suburbs, fences as well as hedges might add a layer of both privacy and safety.

During the selling period, homeowners insurance should be a part of the owner’s security plan. Because insurance is often costly, it may easily lose its priority when the home is on the market, especially if it’s no longer the primary residence. But any gaps in coverage can translate into hefty out-of-pocket expenses for the seller in the event of a break-in or unforeseen damage.

Home Depersonalization

Along with the home, the owner’s identity might warrant protection. While not every seller needs to hide any association with that particular address, depersonalizing a house should temper prying attention into one’s lifestyle.

“If you don’t want people to be nosy about you, you have to take down things that have your name on them,” says Lisa Lippman, a licensed associate real estate broker with Brown Harris Stevens in New York City.

Such items may range from mail and business cards to awards and photographs.

But even if an owner strips down any physical hints of his or her identity from the home, easily searchable public records can still reveal who they are. Such a breach might not solely irk celebrities, Rhoda says. It could negatively impact virtually anyone, from high-profile professionals to average citizens trying to escape abuse.

“One way you can kind of hide your privacy is if you have either bought your (home) through a (limited liability company) or you’re able to transfer it into an LLC before you put it on the market,” Lippman says.

A living trust is another option. Still, both an LLC and a trust carry legal and tax implications that demand careful consideration and even guidance from an expert.

Quietly selling a home off the market by utilizing an agent’s network may present yet another alternative when identity protection is paramount. But it may not result in the best deal. Moreover, a recent rule by the National Association of Realtors that clamps down on the so-called “pocket” or “whisper” listings could negate the privacy such offerings have traditionally afforded.

Open Houses

Open houses, or the afternoon or weekend events that invite strangers to a listed home, are an industry staple. Over small talk and hors d’oeuvres, they expose a residence to a slew of potential buyers, at least according to real estate lore. But Bill Gassett, a Massachusetts-based real estate agent with Re/Max Executive Realty, disagrees with the very premise of open houses.

“Open houses are heavily promoted by real estate agents because the benefits from open houses far outweigh towards the agent versus the seller,” he says.

Instead of finding interested, qualified buyers, these occasions are more likely to connect listing agents with future clients, Gassett says. He adds that committed house hunters work with their own representatives to tour a property rather than attend open houses.

Thus, he says, “open houses don’t sell houses” but can be a “magnet for crime.” That’s because, while agents tend to collect personal information from anyone who comes in, the setup is not foolproof.

Burglars may use open houses as opportunities to study the layout and jam a door or a window to ease their later entry. Or they may simply smuggle an object out during the event.

“Two years ago, there was an agent in my office who held an open house and they lost over $15,000 worth of jewelry, stolen right out of the bedroom,” Gassett says. “At another circumstance, believe it or not, somebody took a painting right off the wall. It was worth $5,000.”

And, in such dire instances, agents seldom shoulder any responsibility. While contracts may differ from state to state and agency to agency, most agreements with real estate agents shield them from liability in the event of theft.

Robberies during open houses might be further incited by local stipulations that forbid security cameras from recording these events – as well as private home tours, for that matter – without the consent of all parties involved.

Nonetheless, Lippman says that in her 22-year-long career, open houses have never lead to larceny. Thus, it is important for a seller to carefully assess the potential benefits and drawbacks of open houses.

Online Listings

Advertising a home on the local multiple listing service as well as on various online platforms is “a fact of selling real estate,” says Keith Markovitz, a Palm Springs, California-based real estate agent with Compass.

But it could amount to the virtual equivalent of holding an open house, revealing structural weaknesses and identity cues that a thief could exploit.

In today’s digital era, however, keeping a property off the internet is quite a tall, if not impossible, task.

“If you just type somebody’s property address into Google, you can get all (types of) information,” Markovitz says.

Aside from official property registries, websites such as Zillow and StreetEasy may hold images, descriptions and details even when a home is not for sale. That is why securing and depersonalizing a property should precede its online promotion.

Relationship With the Selling Agent

Even if conscious efforts to depersonalize and secure a property should promote safety and privacy, such goals are easier to attain when both the seller and the agent strive for them.

“When I show someone’s apartment, I’m always there,” Lippman says. “I’m not letting somebody just wander around.”

Before a home showing, a seller’s real estate representative should screen home shoppers’ prequalifications to purchase, or even urge them to work with a buyer’s agent.

Furthermore, Rhoda says that agents need to avoid scheduling first meetings with potential buyers in listed homes, or giving tours and holding open houses alone at night.

“It’s really important for real estate agents to be trained at and just have an awareness of security,” Rhoda says.

Whether it is a multi-million-dollar house or a starter apartment for sale, the security of a home and the privacy of its owner may not always cause concern. After all, a house might rest in a crime-free, gated community; or the seller may operate through a long-established trust. But when personal and property security looms crucial to a seller, a candid discussion with a dependable agent should allay any initial worries into sensible resolutions for protection.

Originally published here.

Posted in Home Sales, Misc, South Orange County | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Tips for Maintaining Your Privacy While Selling Your Home

Should You Buy a House With Cash?

Cash

In today’s low-inventory housing market, homebuyers are looking for any way to get a leg up on the competition when putting in an offer on their desired home.

If you have the means, an all-cash offer is a great way to fast-track a deal. A seller is more likely to accept your offer, and the success of the deal isn’t reliant on a lender’s OK following an appraisal. You’ll also own the home outright after the transaction with no mortgage to pay each month.

Cash transactions make up a minority of home purchases: All but just 14% of recent homebuyers financed their purchase, according to the National Association of Realtors’ 2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.

Two reasons to pay cash for your home are:

  • Cash offers stand out.
  • You can avoid taking on debt.

Cash Offers Stand Out

Especially in a market where homebuying is extremely competitive, an all-cash offer can provide the needed leg up to get the seller to consider your offer more seriously than others. You may not even be the highest bidder, but the seller knows a cash offer will make the closing process easier.

“All things being equal, it’s very likely that your offer would be the most attractive that they’d be considering with limited risk for the seller,” says Marcy Keckler, vice president of financial advice strategy for Ameriprise Financial.

If you want to set yourself apart from other buyers but still have a mortgage, you could use the cash to your advantage in the offer and then finance after closing. “You could differentiate yourself and get a loan later,” says Justin Vedder, chief operating officer of origination solutions at Altisource, a provider of transaction and management solutions to the real estate and mortgage industry. However, you wouldn’t want to make this part of your plan unless you know that your credit history and the market value of the house would guarantee an approved loan, or that you have enough cash if you can’t mortgage the property.

You Can Avoid Taking On Debt

By paying cash, you won’t have to make monthly payments to a lender, and when the house increases in value, that directly boosts your personal wealth.

It’s also important to remember that by financing, you take on additional costs with loan origination fees and the interest paid over time, so “your net cost of purchasing is going to be less if you’re paying cash,” Keckler says.

Even if you have enough cash on hand to purchase a home without a loan, is it always a good idea? Here are five reasons not to buy a home with cash:

  • You need to maintain liquidity.
  • You qualify for a favorable mortgage.
  • Your money may be better invested elsewhere.
  • You could capture a sizable tax break.
  • There’s no guarantee home values will continue to increase.

You Need to Maintain Liquidity

It’s not wise to purchase a home with cash if you have just enough to pay for it. It’s a good idea to maintain an emergency fund that will sustain you for at least a few months if you were to lose your income. You’ll also want to have some cash on hand for any number of unexpected house needs, from a new roof to a furnace that’s on its last legs.

“It’s especially important that if you’re a homeowner that you have enough other money available to pay for things that might come up,” Keckler says.

You Qualify for a Favorable Mortgage

If you have enough cash to purchase a home outright, lenders will likely view you favorably for mortgage options. With a down payment of 20% or more, you don’t have to worry about mortgage insurance with a conventional loan, and you’re more likely to get a lower interest rate due to the fact that lenders see you as less likely to default on the loan.

First-time homebuyers aren’t just more likely to borrow money, but they’re more likely to borrow more since they don’t yet have equity in a house to help cover a down payment. This group, which makes up 33% of recent buyers, also tends to put less cash down in a purchase: The NAR report notes first-time buyers surveyed typically financed 94% of the home, while repeat buyers financed 84%.

“People are pretty comfortable with taking on debt,” Vedder says. He notes that younger generations’ familiarity with student loans and other financing make taking on a mortgage an easier choice than for older generations.

Following the recession’s historic lows, interest rates may be on the rise but remain low compared to previous decades. With enough cash to put down 20% on a home with a fixed-rate mortgage, you could keep a large portion of your assets liquid and pay 3.625% in interest, which is the average for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at Wells Fargo as of mid-November 2019. Plus, with the significant down payment, you can avoid paying private mortgage insurance. Compare that to October 1981, when mortgage rates hit an all-time high of 18.45%, according to FedPrimeRate.com.

Your Money May Be Better Invested Elsewhere

Even if you’re looking to buy a home outside a pricey metro area, with enough cash to pay for a home outright, you’re likely sitting on a pretty big pile of money. But the decision isn’t necessarily between buying a property outright or keeping money idling in the bank. Consider other forms of investment that may yield higher returns than the interest you’ll save by paying cash.

You could consider investing in stocks, mutual funds or a personal business you feel confident will bring greater returns. Keckler is quick to point out, however, that no investment is a sure thing. As with a home purchase, there is risk when investing your money anywhere.

You Could Capture a Sizable Tax Break

All homeowners with a mortgage can receive a tax break on the interest paid to the lender. “The interest (tax break) you accrue when you pay on the loan is huge,” Vedder says.

This benefit does apply to a small share of homeowners, however. Following federal tax reform passed at the end of 2017, the mortgage interest tax deduction has been limited to a total of $10,000. While residents in parts of the U.S. with particularly high local property taxes are affected by this measure, most homeowners in the U.S. do not exceed the $10,000 limit. In addition, increases to the standard deduction starting in 2018 made it so fewer people need to file itemized tax returns, which is where the mortgage interest deduction would occur. If you’re taking the standard deduction, you do not receive a separate mortgage interest deduction. The Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center estimated in 2018 that the changes would reduce the number of homeowners who receive the deduction from 21% to 9%.

There’s No Guarantee Home Values Will Continue to Increase

Home prices are on the rise and are at an all-time high in many housing markets. Prices are expected to continue to rise in the near future at a slower pace, with signs of a slowing market already affecting larger metro areas. But if the housing market crash in 2008 was any indication, there’s no such thing as a guarantee in real estate.

“A lot of people feel that (because) the market fell out in 2008, putting all your money in your home is a big risk,” Vedder says.

Frequently Asked Questions About Buying a House With Cash

Is it better to buy a house with cash? Whether you should pay with cash or finance your home purchase depends on your financial situation. Paying cash will make your offer more attractive to the buyer, and you will own the property outright. But if you don’t have the funds to pay for a house with cash, a mortgage can help you reach homeownership sooner.

Whether you decide to purchase your home with cash or take on a mortgage, go with what you feel most comfortable with. Keckler notes that zero financing might provide a greater sense of security emotionally, even if it’s not the same guarantee financially. “It may be a big sigh of relief to just know that you own the home outright and that you don’t have to worry about mortgage payments,” she says.

How long does it take to buy a house with cash? Instead of taking a month to close for loan underwriting and approval, buying a house with cash can take just a few days. But you shouldn’t skip aspects of the due diligence process that lenders often require. An appraisal can help ensure you aren’t overpaying for the property, and an inspection will tell you what issues may exist in the home.

What are the closing costs if you buy a house with cash? You won’t have a down payment, loan origination fees or points to cover at closing. While many closing costs become optional when there’s no lender to require them, paying for a title search and title insurance, inspection, survey and more can help reduce your chances of buyer’s remorse down the line.

originally published here.

Posted in Home Sales, Mortgage | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Should You Buy a House With Cash?

First-Time Homebuyer? Here’s How to Buy Your First Home

FTHomebuyer

Owning a home is a major milestone many Americans expect to achieve in their lifetime. It’s not simply about having the ability to stay in one place for years – it’s also about taking advantage of the incentives to homeownership, including the financial security to make a major investment and see it grow over time.

Even the millennial generation, which has been slower to become a major part of the homeowner pool than previous generations, now makes up 37% of recent homebuyers, the largest share of the market, according to the National Association of Realtors’ 2019 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report, published in April.

Following a decline in homeownership after the Great Recession, the homeownership rate nationwide was 64.1% as of the second quarter of 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. While homeownership has not returned to its historical peak of 69.2% in 2004, it is edging upward again after hitting a 50-year low in mid-2016 at 62.9%.

While buying a house for the first time may be intimidating, no homeowner started the process feeling confident every step of the way. Here’s what first-time homebuyers need to know.

Are You Ready to Become a Homeowner?

Long before you start looking at houses, you must be sure your finances are in order. The process of saving and making strategic financial decisions to ensure your credit history is more appealing to a lender can take more than a couple months if you haven’t already been working toward buying a house.

“I would say a year plus – and make sure you’re saving toward that goal over a period of time,” says Amin Dabit, vice president of advisory services for Personal Capital, an online financial advisory and wealth management company.

1. Credit history. Run a credit report on yourself – which is free to do once a year and doesn’t affect your credit by going to annualcreditreport.com and receiving a report from each the three major credit-reporting agencies – and focus on the areas you can improve. You may have credit card balances to pay off, or a few missed student loan payments from a couple years ago. You may also simply need more time to pass from a recent borrowing mistake. The more time that passes from the last blemish on your credit report, the less likely a lender is to consider it a red flag to give you a loan.

2. How much house can you afford? How good your finances look from a mortgage lender’s perspective isn’t the only thing to examine. You should also look at savings that can be used toward a down payment and determine how much you’d be able to afford on a monthly basis for your principal mortgage payment, interest, taxes and insurance, which Dabit recommends calculating as 28% of your gross income. “That’ll help you figure out how much you can borrow and sustain long-term,” he says.

3. Savings for down-the-road expenses. You also have to take into account maintenance and other potential costs that may come up as a homeowner. If you live in a particularly competitive or pricey market, such as San Francisco or the District of Columbia, it’s reasonable to expect your monthly costs to be higher than 28% at the start.

4. Who should you consult? Once you’ve examined your financial history and expected future cash flow, it’s time to start talking to the professionals who will be able to help you throughout the process of buying a house.

A natural start is with a real estate agent. Once you’ve found an agent you can trust, he or she can help you find a financial advisor if needed, a loan officer connected with a lender, a real estate attorney, a title insurance representative, a home inspector and many more faces that will be part of your transaction.

“The agent’s really the core source of all those, or at least can be,” says Josh Heyer, a licensed real estate salesperson with Triplemint, a full-service brokerage in New York City.

Approach the process as assembling a team of people who will help you achieve homeownership. With each person, you want to feel confident that the professional will work in your best interests. Heyer recommends not only speaking with multiple professionals regarding your mortgage and home inspection, but also interviewing several agents at the start.

“I want you to be comfortable with me throughout this entire transaction, and I would rather you meet with a variety of agents first to make sure that I am the one you want to work with going forward,” Heyer says.

What Mortgage Options Are Best for You?

When it comes to finding a mortgage, explore options with different lenders and the various products offered. Major banks, credit unions and nonbank lenders offer a variety of options to better fit your specific needs as a homeowner.

The key to figuring out which program is best for you is determining how much cash you have for a down payment. By putting 20% of the home price down or paying for private mortgage insurance for a smaller down payment, you can qualify for a conventional mortgage.

Alternatively, you can put less money down with other options, like an FHA loan through the Federal Housing Administration, which requires less money down and a less impressive credit history but typically comes with a higher interest rate. Veterans are able to take advantage of VA loans, backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which require no money down but have additional fees.

There are many loan product varieties, and your interest rate can be fixed, most commonly in the form of a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage, or adjustable, known as an adjustable-rate mortgage, which remains fixed for a specified number of years before changing gradually toward the industry rate.

In finding the mortgage product that works best for your financial situation, it’s essential to prequalify or get preapproved for a mortgage amount. This will let you know how much your lender is willing to loan you to buy a house.

But don’t take that maximum approved number as the price you should pay for a house. “In most cases, you shouldn’t borrow the maximum amount that a mortgage lender tells you (that) you can borrow,” Dabit says. Otherwise, you may find yourself having to skimp on other typical expenses, like food, for a few years or more.

Originally published here.

Posted in Home Sales, Mortgage, South Orange County | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on First-Time Homebuyer? Here’s How to Buy Your First Home

5 Tips for Making Your Home Holiday Ready

Holidays

Maybe it’s the sparse foliage or the colder weather, but decorating for fall and winter holidays seems so much more important – and more inviting – than any other time of year. With frequent family gatherings during Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas, among other holidays, creating a cheerful, gracious atmosphere for guests is de rigueur.

Whether you’ll be decorating on a dime or are ready to call in the pros, here are five tips for making your home safe, inviting and delightful during the holiday season:

  • Hire professional decorators.
  • Make your own decorations.
  • Keep safety in mind.
  • Make guests feel welcome.
  • Remember your pets.

Outsource Your Holiday Chores

For magnificent holiday decor with minimal effort, tapping into professional decorators is a wonderful time-saver during the busiest, most stressful time of year. While some contractors work exclusively outdoors, creating lighting extravaganzas to rival that of Clark Griswold in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” many full-service holiday decorators offer extensive interior and exterior services encompassing stoops, stairwells, fireplaces, Christmas trees, dining tables and more.

Check your local business listings, homeowners association and personal network for recommendations, and be sure to ask all the right questions before signing up. For example, what exactly does the quote include? How long does installation take? What items are you buying and what components are you renting during the installation? If fresh foliage will be used, how should it be cared for and how long should it be expected to last? What are your options if anything begins to wilt or sag unexpectedly? Does the contracted price include post-holiday undecorating, and if so, how do you go about scheduling the removal?

Make Merry While Saving Money

If the expense of a professional decorator is out of reach, fantastic holiday decor is easily achievable on a small budget. In fact, handmade decorations often last longer, have a warmer appeal and provide an excellent opportunity to get creative while spending time with family and friends.

Garlands are a marvelous way to make gorgeous tree trimmings on the cheap. Gather up old buttons, beads, sequins and ribbon, or add in traditional organic elements like popcorn and cranberries, and let your imagination run wild. Bunting, bows, and banners for all variety of holidays, plus wrapping paper and ribbons, can be found on the cheap online, at dollar stores or post-holiday sales.

An upfront investment on exceptional quality, say for well-made keepsake ornaments, stockings, menorahs and nativity sets, can last for years to come rather than ending up on the curb come New Year’s Day.

Be Sensible About Safety

Whether you take a hands-off or a hands-on approach to holiday decorating, safety should always be your No. 1 consideration. Between jack-o’-lanterns, Christmas trees, holiday cooking and Hanukkah candles, the fall and winter months can be a dangerous time for residential fires. U.S. fire departments respond to nearly 1,000 incidents each year from Christmas trees and decorations alone, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Be mindful of all open flames and fireplaces, keeping them well clear of kids, pets and flammable decorations.

Even better, choose battery-operated candles wherever possible. Double-check all twinkle lights to make sure cords are in good order, and supervise all holiday cooking. Lastly, check those smoke alarms and ensure your family has an evacuation plan in order should something go wrong.

Of course, safety extends far beyond fire prevention. Keep doors and windows locked, alarm systems on and gifts out of sight to help prevent thefts. Keep small kids away from choking hazards, and for those of you in colder climates, clear snow and ice from walkways and stairs.

Make Guests Feel Welcome

A beautifully arranged guest room can do wonders to lift the moods of travel-weary friends and family.

Take a five-senses approach to decorating guest accommodations: High thread-count linens, fluffy towels, and thick comforters tend to the sense of touch, while candles, soaps and fresh flowers provide an inviting aroma. Consider including plenty of reading materials and noise-canceling headphones for jet-lagged visitors. And who can resist a plate of fresh-baked cookies, a bowl of in-season fruit and a small coffee pot or electric tea kettle?

Don’t forget to add little conveniences like space for hanging clothes, a suitcase stand, a selection of toiletries and a handwritten welcome note with the Wi-Fi password and agenda, if any. Even if your accommodations are more pull-out couch than a private guest suite, you can still deliver a gracious welcome with a small side table and gift basket devoted to the items above.

Don’t Forget Your Fur Family

Pets often need special care and attention during the holidays, especially if they’re not used to a bit of hustle and bustle. Make sure cats and dogs have a safe and quiet place to retreat if you’re expecting guests or trick-or-treaters, and be aware of the many toxic plants that are common during the holiday season, including poinsettia, holly and mistletoe.

Whether as a climbing post or a tug-of-war partner, a Christmas tree is often irresistible to our four-legged-friends, so ensure that trees are securely anchored and supervised at all times. Advise family members and houseguests to avoid handing out human-food treats to furry beggars, monitor all open flames, and avoid tinsel (a serious digestive hazard) in pet-friendly homes entirely.

Often equally joyous and stressful, the holidays can be a heady, busy time. But they’re also when our warmest, most long-lasting memories of home and family are created. With a little bit of thoughtful planning and a whole lot of patience, the holidays can be merry, bright and safe for all.

Originally published here. 

Posted in Misc, South Orange County | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on 5 Tips for Making Your Home Holiday Ready

Is a 15- or 30-Year Mortgage Right for You?

Mortgage15-30

MORTGAGES COME WITH many options, and one of them is your loan term: a 15-year versus 30-year mortgage. A 30-year mortgage can make your payments more affordable, but a 15-year mortgage is generally cheaper overall. As you’re weighing your mortgage options, here are the most important things to know about 15- and 30-year mortgages.

How a 15- vs. 30-Year Mortgage Works

A mortgage is a type of term loan, meaning the amount you borrow is repaid over a set period of time. You make principal and interest payments according to an amortization schedule that’s set by the lender. Your monthly payment schedule may also include homeowners insurance and property taxes if those are escrowed into your payment. Private mortgage insurance is also added when applicable, usually when you buy a home with less than 20% down.

When you have a 15-year mortgage, the total amount you have to repay is spread out over 15 years, or 180 payments. If you choose a 30-year mortgage instead, you repay the loan over 30 years, or 360 payments.

What’s Good About a 15-Year Mortgage

There are several good reasons to choose a 15-year over a 30-year mortgage.

Pay the home off more quickly.

“The monthly payments will be larger, allowing more money to go to the principal in a shorter amount of time,” says Benjamin Ross, a real estate agent in Texas. Your loan balance disappears faster, which might be important to you if you envision a retirement that doesn’t include mortgage debt.

Lower interest rate.

Because you’re paying your home loan off sooner with a 15-year term, your mortgage becomes less risky for the bank. That may translate to a lower interest rate compared with a 30-year loan. Depending on the overall interest rate environment, rates for a 15-year mortgage may be a half a percentage point or more lower than 30-year mortgage rates.

Less interest total over the loan term.

A lower interest rate also benefits you in another way when adding up the total interest paid on the loan. Here’s a simple side-by-side comparison of the total interest paid on a $300,000 mortgage.

(Note: These calculations don’t include PMI, homeowners insurance or property taxes escrowed into the mortgage.)

15-YEAR MORTGAGE TERM 30-YEAR MORTGAGE TERM
Interest rate: 3% Interest rate: 3.625%
Monthly payment: $2,072 Monthly payment: $1,368
Total interest paid: $72,914 Total interest paid: $192,535
In this example, choosing a shorter loan term and qualifying for a lower interest rate results in a total interest savings of $119,621. That’s a substantial amount of money you could keep in your pocket over time.

Build equity faster.

Home equity represents the difference between what your home is worth and what you owe on the mortgage. When your monthly payment is larger because your loan term is shorter, you can build equity at a quicker pace because you’re paying more of the loan principal down each month compared with what you would with a longer mortgage.

15-Year Mortgage Drawbacks

What’s great about 15-year mortgages versus 30-year mortgages is also what makes them less attractive for certain homebuyers: a larger monthly payment.

Going back to the previous example of a 15- vs. 30-year loan, the mortgage payment for the 15-year option is $704 higher. A $2,000-plus monthly mortgage payment may not be realistic for every budget.

“A lot of people are more concerned with ensuring that their monthly payment is manageable than the total interest paid over the life of the loan,” says Anthony Sherman, co-founder and CEO of Simplist, a digital mortgage marketplace. “Paying off your mortgage over a longer period of time can free up cash to do other important things, like investing, saving for college or retirement, and paying for renovations.”

Another reason to reconsider a shorter loan term is how long you plan to stay in the home. If you plan to move within the next five years, for example, then being able to build equity faster or get a lower interest rate on the loan may not be as important in your decision-making about which kind of mortgage to get.

What’s Good About 30-Year Mortgages

A 30-year home loan also has its advantages. Here’s why you might prefer a longer loan instead:

Lower monthly payments.

You don’t need to be a math genius to understand that a longer loan term can make your payments lower. That might be attractive if you want to be able to work on other financial goals while you pay down your home loan. If you’re getting a larger mortgage, being able to pay over 30 years could make the payments more affordable for your budget.

Payment flexibility.

While you’re agreeing to a 30-year mortgage term, you can still choose to make extra payments. That could help you pay the loan off ahead of schedule.

More potential for tax savings.

Interest on home loans is tax-deductible. When you have a 15-year loan, you’re paying off more of the interest upfront, so you may not benefit from the tax deduction as long as you would with a 30-year mortgage instead.

30-Year Mortgage Drawbacks

There are some drawbacks to choosing a 30-year home loan over a shorter term.

As the earlier example showed, the biggest drawback is interest. Not only can you end up with a higher interest rate on a 30-year mortgage, but you’ll also pay more total interest on the loan. That assumes, of course, that you stick with the same loan term and don’t refinance to a shorter mortgage at any point.

Refinancing from a 30-year loan to a 15-year loan could save you money if you’re able to get a lower interest rate. Whether refinancing makes sense depends largely on the difference between your current interest rate and the rate you’d qualify for, as well as how much you still owe on the mortgage. Keep in mind that refinancing may involve an upfront expense since you have to pay closing costs. You could roll those into your loan, but that can nudge your monthly payments higher.

Another drawback is that you’ll take longer to build equity with a 30-year loan, since you’re paying a smaller amount toward the interest and principal each month. That could be a disadvantage if you were hoping to take out a home equity loan or line of credit at some point to consolidate debt or finance home improvement projects.

How to Choose a Mortgage Term

The best way to evaluate whether a 15- or 30-year mortgage is better is to consider your plans and priorities.

Specifically, think about:

  • How long you plan to stay in the home
  • Whether you’d like to tap into your equity eventually
  • The amount you plan to borrow and how much you’ll put down
  • What size mortgage payment you can reasonably afford
  • How a mortgage payment affects your ability to pursue other financial goals

Timing is particularly important because of how mortgage payments are structured.

“In the first 10 years of the loan, over two-thirds of your monthly payment is comprised of interest,” Sherman says. “So, if you don’t plan on living in your home for more than 10 years, you’ll end up paying a lot of interest but only paying down very little of the original principal.”

Thinking big picture, in terms of your larger financial goals, can help you decide which loan option is a better fit for your situation.

“If the goal is to build quick equity and pay off the loan sooner, the 15-year plan is a good one,” Ross says. “If one is buying a home long term and has no intent on using equity, perhaps a 30-year loan would be more appropriate, especially if they can’t afford the higher monthly payment.”

When in doubt, run the numbers through a mortgage calculator using 15- and 30-year terms. This can put the short- and long-term financial implications of either loan in perspective.

Originally published here.

Posted in Misc, South Orange County | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Is a 15- or 30-Year Mortgage Right for You?

JUST SOLD! 2 Avenida Cristal, San Clemente 92673

2 Avenida Cristal

Representing the buyers of this gorgeous home!

Come for the location and stay for the view! A sweeping vista of the Talega golf course and the hills beyond with cool ocean breezes blowing in from the coast only a few miles away. After an early dinner in Old Town San Clemente make your way back in 10 minutes to your 3BR, 2BA single-story residence that sits at the end of a cul de sac and relax on the largest patio in the terrific Carmel community, enjoying enchanting sunsets by the fire pit, listening to the waterfall and perhaps contemplating hosting a barbecue for friends and neighbors. When it’s time to sleep, your master bedroom faces the back, open the window and invite the gentle breezes in as you sleep in bliss. There is central AC (you’ll rarely need it) and if you find yourself cold in January, central heating and a gas fireplace in the living room. The master bedroom sports not only dual sinks but dual shower heads as well! …use your imagination! There is a large walk in closet for all your favorite clothes. There are new Moen fixtures in both bathrooms and the kitchen has GE’s high-end Monogram appliances and a Viking 6 burner stovetop, so you better be cooking. Ceramic tile floors run throughout with the exception of the carpeted master bedroom. If not your style, we can help you on that with some credit to redesign. A short distance away is Talega Village Center, where you can shop for groceries or enjoy a dinner out. So, are you creative, artistic, athletic and ready to relax?

Looking for a home similar or curious about your home value? Give me a call!

Posted in Home Sales, Misc | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on JUST SOLD! 2 Avenida Cristal, San Clemente 92673

JUST SOLD! 4013 Calle Isabella, San Clemente

4013 Calle Isabella, San Clemente, CA 92672

Congrats to my sellers of this beautiful 4 bedroom and 3 bathroom house in the exclusive Cyprus Shore community! This wonderful home has a cathedral ceiling entrance with two fireplaces. All the bedrooms are large in size. One bedroom is currently used as an office. There is a private backyard with built-in BBQ and custom built-in outdoor fireplace. Minutes to walk to the beach, pools, and tennis courts … you will feel like you are always on vacation!

Want to see how I can get these same results for you? Give me a call now!

Posted in Home Sales, Misc | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on JUST SOLD! 4013 Calle Isabella, San Clemente

7 Home Upgrades That Will Attract First-Time Homebuyers

7 Home Upgrades That Will Attract First-Time Homebuyers

There’s a common misconception about millennials being uninterested in, or simply unprepared for, homeownership. The statistics simply don’t bear this out: A realtor.com analysis published in early 2019 found millennials accounted for more than 40% of all new home loans.

The implication for home sellers is clear – there’s a decent chance that some of the house hunters who show up to your property are going to be in the millennial age range, so it can really pay off to know your prospective buyer demographic and home upgrades that will definitely catch their attention.

Specifically, there are some home upgrades that tend to be more appealing to those in the millennial buying bracket. As you think about the best way to sell a property, keep these upgrades in mind:

  • Smart home technology.
  • Gathering spaces.
  • USB chargers.
  • A home office.
  • Energy-saving appliances.
  • Neutral colors.
  • Garage tech.

Smart Home Technology

Millennials have a reputation for being tech savvy, so it makes sense that they would be interested in whole-house connectivity, including home automation options that allow them to control things like the thermostat, sound system, garage door or the security system alarm from an app on their phone.

Technologies that help reduce the cost of utilities, such as a smart home thermostat, are especially marketable.

Gathering Spaces

When selling your house, one of the most important steps is staging. And if you think you’ll have some first-time buyers show up for a tour or an open house, you might stage your home to emphasize areas where the homeowners can gather with their friends.

For example, if you set up a room in such a way that it looks just perfect for kicking back, watching the big game or even firing up a video game console, that might really appeal to young couples eager to entertain.

USB Chargers

Smartphones are ubiquitous, and millennials are going to have their eyes open for easily available charging stations. If you convert even one or two outlets to include USB chargers, that can go over very well with millennial house hunters. Ultimately, this small investment can really help you sell your home.

A Home Office

Historically, real estate agents have actually advised against having home office spaces, simply because they have generally not been very attractive to buyers. In recent years, that’s started to change, especially among younger professionals. Remote work opportunities are on the rise, and millennial buyers may be eager to find a space that’s created for them to set up shop.

If your house has more than a couple of bedrooms, you may consider configuring one to look more like an office setting, simply demonstrating to buyers how flexible the space can be.

Energy-Saving Appliances

Millennial buyers tend to be on the lookout for ways to reduce the expenses incurred by homeownership. One natural option is energy-efficient appliances.

Replacing your washing machine, dryer or dishwasher with something Energy Star-certified can be a good way to signal to potential buyers that there are savings embedded in your property.

Neutral Colors

This is actually just good advice no matter which homebuying demographic you’re appealing to. Most house hunters prefer soft, neutral colors to anything bright or garish, and millennials are no exception. So try to look for those soft grays or warm tans when repainting.

Garage Tech

Again, millennial buyers are known for their embrace of all the latest technology, and you may have some who want to bring the most up-to-date gadgets out to the garage. This may even include charging a smart car.

Newer garage door openers are equipped with remote technology, allowing you to open and close the door from an app. This can be a smart gesture toward the lifestyle of your millennial buyers.

These are just a few of the home upgrades we’d recommend when your millennial-aged buyers are likely to be considering your home. There are definitely more home upgrades to consider when attracting any buyer. But this list is a great place to start.

Originally published here.

Posted in Home Sales, South Orange County | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on 7 Home Upgrades That Will Attract First-Time Homebuyers

The Guide to Contemporary Design Trends for Your Home

The Guide to Contemporary Design Trends for Your Home

Wanting a home that looks stylish and photo-worthy is a common goal. But how can you keep up with the trendsetting interior spaces of the moment? Contemporary design trends often find inspiration from existing styles, and combine them to make the look we see on TV, Pinterest and in interior design magazines.

In order to grasp the right interior design techniques, you’ll first need to understand what contemporary design is. Then, you’ll be able to take the trends and make them work in your home.

Here are eight ways you can incorporate contemporary design trends:

  • Clean lines.
  • Combined styles.
  • Simple colors.
  • Exposed imperfections.
  • Comfortable furniture.
  • Hard floors.
  • Additional decor.
  • Function and form in the right places.

Understanding Contemporary Design

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of how you can make contemporary design work in your home, it’s important to note the difference between contemporary design and other styles, which may sound similar and intersect in certain trends or details, but are in fact distinct.

Contemporary design. Contemporary design reflects the design trends of the moment and is often a combination of other existing design styles to mirror the common preferences of the current time. Contemporary design is often misrepresented as modern, and while it can – and often does – incorporate the modern design style, there are more details at play. Because it follows popular styles of the moment, contemporary design looks current and doesn’t immediately evoke thoughts of a specific time period or style exclusively. Contemporary design of today is characterized by an overall clean look, with simple decoration and subtle variations in color and texture throughout a space.

Modern design. Modern design is defined by a specific time period – namely, the mid-20th century – and is embodied by its focus on function, minimalism, clean lines, geometric patterns and the emergence of plastic as a material for furniture and decor. Contemporary design does pull from midcentury modern design aesthetics, but contemporary design goes beyond to include other design styles as well.

Traditional design. Traditional design, on the other hand, embraces more ornate decor, incorporates rich colors and has a distinct European influence. Traditional design focuses closely on details, with claw foot furniture, overstuffed couches and chairs and architectural elements like crown molding, columns and built-in cabinets and shelves.

Read on for the lowdown on contemporary design trends and ideas you can add to your home.

Clean Lines

While not quite as simplistic as midcentury modern style, contemporary trends are aimed at avoiding an overcomplicated look. You want the eye to naturally flow from one object in the room to the other, rather than getting overwhelmed looking at a space.

Combining Styles

If you shop exclusively at one store to decorate your home, it’ll likely capture a specific style. Ikea, for instance, will give your home a clear Swedish modern feel, while West Elm furniture tends to focus on midcentury modern. Keep your space contemporary by including multiple design aesthetics, rather than sticking to one.

Purposely mix different styles and periods in one room, says Adam Meshberg, founder and principal of architecture and interior design firm Meshberg Group, based in New York City. “Mix it up and maybe put some graffiti art in a painting mixed in with a washed Persian rug,” he says. “It gives it a unique style.”

Simple Colors

Neutrals are the go-to color scheme for contemporary design, with bright colors used as accents. Often walls and main pieces of furniture in a room are kept neutral, allowing for pillows, blankets, wall art or tabletop decor to offer one or two accent colors in the room.

But the choice of grays or beige doesn’t have to be boring. Rising in popularity for paint colors are the shades that have undertones of warmer red or pink, or even opting for a more metallic gray, says Tina Nokes, co-owner of Five Star Painting in Loudoun County, Virginia, part of the Neighborly network of home service companies. “Those warm grays and silvery grays are still the most popular thing we do,” she says.

In some cases, you can even make your walls the accent color – either with a single wall or even the entire room – by focusing neutrals in the furniture and other decor. “A lot of people like the teals, (and) the blue-green that looks like water,” Nokes says.

Exposed Imperfections

An exposed brick wall or uncovered air ducts and pipes coming from the ceiling often work well in contemporary design. Ductwork and piping can be left in their natural state, or they can be painted to help them blend in (or even stand out more) with the rest of a room. The exposed look pulls from industrial design, which is becoming a larger part of contemporary design trends in recent years.

“People love the story of the old bones of houses or buildings,” Meshberg says. Even if your home is relatively new, he says you can expose a concrete wall or even bring in reclaimed wood that wasn’t there before to offer up a look that makes the space feel unique.

In June, the online furniture company Joybird examined the top-searched interior design styles by state through Google Trends. The findings, released in a report, note that industrial style was most popular, with 12 states seeing it as the most commonly searched design aesthetic, including three states in the Midwest, much of the Mountain West and additional outliers like Alaska, Louisiana, North Carolina and New Hampshire.

Comfortable Furniture

Contemporary furniture follows the same rules of simplicity, without too much decoration or complication. But the pieces should also focus on comfort and function – a couch and chairs that make it easy for family and friends to sit for hours adheres to contemporary goals.

The most popular furniture choices stick to neutrals for the main chairs, couches and coffee or side tables. Select pieces that show the legs of the couch or chair, rather than having a skirt around it – a style that is now considered dated.

Hard Floors

Because the focus of a contemporary design is on clean lines and a clean space overall, you’re more likely to see hardwood, tile or vinyl floors in a contemporary home. Carpeting doesn’t line up well with contemporary styles, and while rugs are used, they’re often used sparingly and as accent patterns or colors.

In an open floor plan, continuous flooring throughout the space is common to make the area look big and cohesive, but to help break it up and establish more intimate spaces, consider introducing additional materials.

In designing the lobby space of a Brooklyn apartment building, Meshberg inlaid tile in the area of the business center, breaking up the concrete flooring of the entire lobby area. “It juxtaposes a handcrafted look with an industrial look,” Meshberg says.

Additional Decor

Contemporary trends in previous years have centered around a more minimalist look to focus on clean lines, but more tabletop or shelf decor has become the emerging trend. You can also personalize the space with photos, vases, candles and plants that speak to your individual style in a room.

Family heirlooms on display or a collection of vintage items that appeal to your tastes – cameras, books or even dishes – show personality, but also follows popular love of vintage items. In the Joybird report, the second-most popular interior design style by state was vintage, which is the No. 1 style among searches in Connecticut, Kansas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Vermont.

Vases, planters and tabletop decor should follow contemporary rules for clean lines – go for the simpler design rather than one that introduces an overly complicated pattern or ornate silhouette.

Function and Form in the Right Places

While you may tend to lean toward the most simplistic details of contemporary design to avoid making a decorating faux pas, there are certainly parts of your home where you can be a bit more adventurous with color, pattern and texture.

If you have more than one living space, for example, embrace more traditional European details in a formal living room. “If it’s formal, you can do more drama because it’s not used as much,” Nokes says.

Additionally powder rooms or half bathrooms are a perfect place to showcase a patterned wallpaper – it may be overwhelming in a larger space, but walls covered in palm leaf or flamingo designs can be a fun surprise for guests who pop in to wash their hands.

Originally published here.

Posted in Home Sales, Misc | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Guide to Contemporary Design Trends for Your Home